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City wins legal battle over facility upgrades


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PDF file File: Mississippi Supreme Court order

Carl Smith



An almost two-year legal battle over the City of Starkville's plans to construct a new city hall and rehabilitate its current location concluded Wednesday when the Mississippi Supreme Court denied resident William McGovern's motion to reconsider a previous appeal. 


This litigation was filed with the high court in February and asked the body to reconsider an appeal of a previous Oktibbeha County Chancery Court Case. The city promptly filed its own response after McGovern's latest motion was entered. 


In June, aldermen approved construction plans for a new city hall and renovations for its current facility after residents defeated an $8.45 million bond referendum in 2011. 


The plan utilizes money free in the city's budget, soon-to-be retired debt and projected revenues toward a 20-year lease-purchase agreement funded by certificates of participation. 


The former Starkville Electric Department building, located near the terminus of Main Street, will serve as the new City of Starkville home.  


Litigation over the project's funding processes began when McGovern filed a bill of exceptions appeal with the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court in June. He later filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission accusing the city of violating the state's open meetings laws. The bill of exceptions was voluntarily dismissed and replaced by an objection with the Oktibbeha County Chancery Court. 


McGovern objected to the city's plan to issue certificates of participation as a financing mechanism for the project. His compliant also stated the city left pertinent information blank in its approved plan. 


Oktibbeha County Chancery Judge Jim Davidson's December ruling stated "due process requirements of law" were met by the city and allegations of open meetings violations were "collateral and have no bearing upon the ultimate decision."  


The Mississippi Ethics Commission ruled the city failed to strictly comply with the state's Open Meetings Act and simply warned the city about its actions. 


Attorney Charles Yoste filed an appeal on McGovern's behalf with the Supreme Court on Jan. 9, but Starkville's legal counsel contested that the appeal was filed after the 20-day appeal deadline, which ended Jan. 7. The high court granted City Attorney Chris Latimer's dismissal, nullifying the appeal. 



Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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